Joyce DiDonato: three world-ranking mezzos #2

Of the three world-ranking mezzo-sopranos performing in London this week, the Kansan Joyce DiDonato is the least established.

She’s a fast-rising star, though – I’ve previously enjoyed her 2006 performances in Barber Of Seville, the lovely Rossini opera, at Covent Garden, in a semi-staged Handel opera at the Barbican, and a Wigmore Hall recital.

Saturday’s Barbican gig, backed by chamber orchestra Les Talens Lyriques, was part of a European tour promoting the singer’s new disc, Furore: Handel’s Scenes Of Madness.

The lovely setlist and striking performances cemented DiDonato’s growing reputation. She has a rich, creamy tone, an expressive, intelligent reading of the texts and enviable voice control – her dynamics and legato are always a thrill. She delivered a very enjoyable gig: must buy the album.

But the empty seats in the hall told you that DiDonato isn’t quite yet first division – Bartoli, Gheorghiu, Fleming, for example, are substantially more popular – but I wouldn’t bet against her morphing into a top drawer diva in the next few years.

Another odd Barbican audience! As for Roberto Alagna earlier this year, a mix of the cognoscenti you also encounter at Covent Garden or Vienna’s Musikverein, alongside an overabundance of Classic-Lite seniors who get way too excited (usually over the wrong things).

Gerry Smith



Barber of Seville – another Rossini triumph for Covent Garden

Contrary to some tepid reviews, the new Royal Opera House production of The Barber of Seville, Rossini’s mature comedy, is a delight. While the Financial Times critic thought the staging “tedious, gaudy, boxy, contrived”, I found the production to be thoroughly engaging. And very funny.

Joyce DiDonato’s Rosina was well-nigh perfect. Her rich voice and expressive acting come from the top drawer: DiDonato’s a talent to follow carefully. Ditto George Petean, in the title role.

And, just as they triumphed with last season’s Rossini at Covent Garden, Il Turco, directors Leiser and Caurier presented a colourfully witty feast for the eyes.


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